Back In My Day, Pluto Was Never A Planet




Late night television is not a great place for innovation. The formula that the majority of the American TV late night shows work from is the one that was created by Steve Allan back in the fifties, but could commonly be called the Carson Method, given that Johnny Carson was the most popular, longest lasting and most influential of the late night hosts. Essentially, it follows a rough structure of monologue-sketch or amusement-interview 1-interview 2-good night folks. The Carson Method was used by Leno and Letterman, by Conan and Daley, and now by Fallon and Kimmel and pretty much everyone else.

Even the Daily Show and Colbert reports used a variation on the Method, inverting the amount of time given to the interview compared to the monologue or sketch. The biggest variance from this method has been in CBS' Late Late Show. Craig Ferguson did a straight up subversion of the Method, keeping the structure, but undermining it's purpose by corrupting the content. Current host James Corden took his influence from the UK style chat shows, which basically takes all those structured elements and just sloshes them around. The elements are all present, they just don't follow a regular plot (though he has Americanized it somewhat).

It is very likely that The Late Show with, starring Stephen Colbert will follow the Carson Method. It would almost be too much work to rewrite the formula, at least when they begin, because he's already asking the audience to accept him out of character. So, for the time being, we'll have to live with Colbert following in the footsteps of his forebears. But if he's going to embrace the format, I think there are other elements, ones largely forsaken by modern hosts: the recurring Special Guest. Letterman is the last host I can think of that really embraced what was definitely a Carson contribution (Ferguson did it to an extent, often having Chris Hardwick on his show for little other reason than to talk nerd). Letterman regularly had Jack Hanna on the show, with a variety of animals that inevitably gave Dave the wiggins. I feel this is a tradition that Colbert needs to embrace. But not with animals, with science.

Neil deGrasse Tyson already holds the record for second most appearances on the Colbert Report (only beaten by Andrew Sullivan by one appearance). And just look at how much these two enjoy one another, in this fifteen minute video of them discussing the amazing New Horizons data, and eating ice cream. They have bountiful chemistry, Colbert takes a naturally antagonistic position to keep things funny and progressing despite clearly being as interested as hell, and having a science advocate be a regular part of a national program is something that would not go amiss in this day and age. Mostly though, I just really like both of these guys, and they are fun together, and I want to see that continue. Which it seems is likely to be the case, considering that the show hasn't even started and Tyson can already chalk up one appearance.

Via the Late Show.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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